Holon, Israel – Under the watchful eyes of six African children, all who had recently undergone heart surgery, the students of Write On For Israel filed into their children’s home, ready to play.
With coloring books and art projects in hand, the Write On teenagers made new friends, engaging the children through smiles and hand gestures. Each child had travelled thousands of miles for lifesaving surgery, provided by the Israeli doctors of Save A Child’s Heart (SACH.)
Now in it’s 21st year, SACH has saved the lives of over 3,500 children from fifty countries, including Syria and the Palestinian territories. Founded by Dr. Ami Cohen, the organization has also trained pediatric heart surgeons in developing countries like Tanzania and Ethiopia.
“We were really astounded to find out that SACH treats children from countries that are formally at war with Israel, “ said one Write On student.
Looking past political differences, patients and doctors come together to save lives. In order to make surgery financially accessible to patients from developing countries, doctors volunteer their time pro bono.
At the Wolfson Medical Center, Write On met with Dr. Dekel, one of the head surgeons. He described how SACH was founded through the vision of Dr. Cohen, who died, tragically, in 2001.
“Dr. Cohen saw many children with cardiac disease who weren’t being treated because of either financial reasons or there was no doctor available,” he said. “To solve this problem, Dr. Cohen founded SACH. He lived by the motto ‘we can, so we should.’”
Write On students also met with Fatimah, an Israeli Arab social worker and translator, who works with patients and parents to help ease the hardships and break down language barriers. It was intriguing to discover that not only does the SACH program help individual families, but it also bridges gaps between the different cultures inside Israel and between people who come from other countries.
At the Save A Child’s Heart children’s home in Holon, students met with volunteers, children and mothers who hail from African countries, including Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.
“Even though we didn’t have a common language with the children, we were able to interact with a universal language,” said one student. “Smiles, hand motions, and of course, coloring. It didn’t take long for the students to get attached to us!”
As high school seniors about to embark on a path of defending and advocating for Israel on college campuses, we view everything through the lens of how we can advance Israel’s cause. At SACH we saw cultures coming together, and witnessed equal treatment of all patients, no matter what their background. It is an important example of Israel serving as a light unto the nations, saving countless lives of children most vulnerable.
Since its inception over 13 years ago, Write On For Israel has educated and empowered more than 500 top high school students from the greater New York area to become informed about world issues affecting Israel and campus leaders when in college. Founded by Gary Rosenblatt, editor and publisher of The Jewish Week, Write On uses the lens of journalism to transform Jewish teens into confident spokespeople and opinion leaders in preparation for the challenges they will face at college and beyond. Learn more about the program here.